Conference breakout workshop preview: From checklists to spiritual practices: a tool for congregations growing into climate justice work (Pittsburgh)

Have you seen the amazing workshops that will be part of our February 9th conference?

This is one of the breakout workshops planned for our Pittsburgh location. Register now for the Pittsburgh conference-The Long Journey: from Extracting the Past to Cultivating the Future.

The Pittsburgh conference will be at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, 616 Highland Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15206. Register now.

From checklists to spiritual practices: a tool for congregations growing into climate justice work.
Cricket Hunter, PA IPL

Yours is not the only congregation that has taken a step or two and then gotten stuck or overwhelmed.   Come join a rich discussion of possibilities and approaches, and try out a tool that can help root your congregation’s actions in its gifts, and draw more people into climate justice engagement.

Cricket Eccleston Hunter is PA IPL’s Director of Program.  Her work with congregations and communities across Pennsylvania has taught her again and again that we can do more, and more effectively, when we tap into our assets, grow movement where our goals align, and invite more people to join us.

There are three workshops per location. Find everything you need to know about the conference here.

Register for the Pittsburgh location now.

Conference breakout workshop preview: Civic engagement and watershed conservation (Scranton)

Have you seen the amazing workshops that will be part of our February 9th conference?

This is one of the breakout workshops planned for our Scranton location. Register now for the Scranton of The Long Journey: from Extracting the Past to Cultivating the Future.

The Scranton conference will be at the IHM Center, 1512 University Ave., Dunmore, PA 18509. The center is adjacent to the Marywood University campus. For GPS or Google Maps, use N41.43381 W75.63615 with the address, or these directions will get you there from any direction.

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Lackawanna Watershed Conservation Corps: Our Common Home, and Opportunities for Community Involvement
Bernie McGurl, LRCA

With a wealth of native, historical knowledge, Bernie McGurl will present the state of the Lackawanna Watershed followed by pragmatic stewardship opportunities that all inhabitants of Northeastern PA can enjoy. He will also introduce the Lackawanna Watershed Conservation Corps, a new initiative that will allow local people, businesses, and government to find common ground with their neighbors and safeguard their waterways. 

Bernie McGurl is a fourth generation native of the Lackawanna Valley.  Though he worked for many years in railroad and construction, most know him through the Lackawanna River Conservation Association (LRCA), where he has served variously as  co-founder, Board President, and Executive Director.  He also serves as a board member of regional organizations including United Neighborhood Centers, The Rail Trail Council of NEPA and the Eastern Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation (EPCAMR).

Bernie helped  establish the Lackawanna Valley Conservancy (LVC), which created a land trust in the Lackawanna Watershed, and also leads brownfield remediation work to restore damaged lands for recreation, conservation, and economic reuse.

In 2020, Bernie is leading LRCA work to develop Watershed Conservation and Greenway Trail plans along two critical Lackawanna River tributary streams, Leggett’s Creek and Roaring Brook. Both initiatives involve community volunteers to help implement the plans over the next 20 years.   Mr. McGurl may be contacted at the LRCA: 570-347-6311 or director@lrca.org.

There are three workshops per location. Find everything you need to know about the conference here.

Register for the Scranton location now.

Conference breakout workshop preview: Drawdown (Scranton)

Have you seen the amazing workshops that will be part of our February 9th conference?

This is one of the breakout workshops planned for our Scranton location. Register now for the Scranton conference-The Long Journey: from Extracting the Past to Cultivating the Future.

The Scranton conference will be at the IHM Center, 1512 University Ave., Dunmore, PA 18509. The center is adjacent to the Marywood University campus. For GPS or Google Maps, use N41.43381 W75.63615 with the address, or these directions will get you there from any direction.

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Drawdown: Two perspectives on this hope-filled work and what it offers  

The solutions-focused, research-driven possibilities presented in Drawdown (“the most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming” ) has captured both of your workshop leaders.  They are ready to share the resource and ways that individuals and communities may engage with it and  act on some of the top 100 solutions. While Drawdown is a secular resource, we will include connectivity points — places where the work can be drawn into and supported by to liturgy, prayer, moral imagination, and beloved community.

Greg Williams early career was teaching children about the natural world in California, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. His “retirement career” of habitat restoration allows him to care for the earth, make a better world for his grand kids, and get to know the natural world even better. His gloves-on work with other people out in the air, land, and water of our Common Home keeps him going when he is doing other kinds of climate justice work.   Greg has served on the PA IPL Board for the last four years (including a term as Board President).  He currently lives in rural Williamsburg, PA, in Blair County.

Rabbi Daniel Swartz serves as the spiritual leader of Temple Hesed of Scranton  and as the Executive Director of the Coalition on Jewish Life and the Environment (COEJL).  He has a long history of leadership at the intersection of faith, climate justice and care of our Common Home.  He is the lead author and editor of To Till and to Tend:  A Guide to Jewish Environmental Study and Action.  His comparison of classical Jewish texts with sections of Pope Francis’ Laudato Si , “Laudato Si and the Sages,” has been used in congregations around the globe.Daniel served on the PA IPL Board for many years, including a term as Board President.

There are three workshops per location. Find everything you need to know about the conference here.

Register for the Scranton location now.

Gathering to share warmth and light- PA IPL at the Winter Solstice

December 21, 2019
Winter Solstice


It was the longest night. People gathered from near and far, in small groups and large,
to share their fears and grief and the darkness in their hearts. A year like no other, this was, 
Testing us beyond what we’d ever imagined.
Day after day, week after week, we found ourselves growing and becoming sturdy because there was no other choice.
And the solstice fire was lit and the candles passed and the light of the new year’s dawning lifted our heavy hearts and brought us brightness and hope.
— The Longest Night, Julie Middleton

Over eons, as we have insulated ourselves from the natural world, it has ceased to mystify or worry us in the way it did our ancient ancestors; it also ceases to amaze us nearly as often.  
In letting the solstice pass by, we do more than leave behind some of our ancient history.  We also turn our backs on the season of winter. The media portrays the winter season as an enemy to be feared, fought and defeated.  Winter, we are told, is to be endured. Yet in wishing away the season of winter, we also wish away the time when we humans might view the world from a different perspective, even marvel at its mysteries, and re-awaken our quiet awe.  

Once in our collective history the winter solstice was a time when ordinary people gathered in the dim and dark.  They came together for support, and for comfort. “And then the Solstice fire was lit and the candles passed and the light of the new year’s dawning lifted our heavy hearts and brought us brightness and hope.”  Might this solstice be a marker of winter within as well as without — a time to gather, to hold the memories of all our human forbearers who faced the dark places in their own lives and the larger dangers of their time in history? 
May their commitment to follow the light be the spark to our own hopes today!

As we seek to gather our lights in the darkness, to nurture the Spark, we hope you will mark your calendar to join with us in community

  • Our conference The Long Journey: From Extracting the Past to Cultivating the Future takes place on Sunday afternoon, February 9th, in Scranton, Pittsburgh, or Philadelphia.  
    Learn more and register.
  • A “bookgroup plus” — a series of virtual workshops will allow participants to share and experience resources from The Work That Reconnects.  This series of six, 75-minute virtual, participatory workshops will take place on Tuesday evenings from January through March.  The virtual workshops will draw on the book Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in Without Going Crazy
    Learn more and register.

Gather with us, and welcome the returning light,



Come to Our Senses this Thanksgiving

Come to Our Senses

Over the past two months, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to facilitate six sessions of Engaging Active Hope at Cranaleith Spiritual Center.  Each Sunday afternoon a group has gathered to share our gratitude for this precious Earth we call Home; to name and honor the pain we feel as we witness its desecration and destruction; to seek new understandings of our shared strength and determination to act for the well-being of all; and to go forth, every day, with renewed intentions to live in ways that heal Earth, and one another.

https://workthatreconnects.org/spiral/
photo credit:  Dori Midnight

This work, inspired by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone’s book, Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in Without Going Crazy, has been happening for many years in congregational basements, retreat centers, study circles, and even online.  But that didn’t prepare us when, halfway through the series, the exact work we’re engaged in showed up in a New York Times article, “Apocalypse Got You Down?  Maybe This Will Help:  Searching for a cure for my climate crisis grief.”  In fact, we feel even less alone, and grateful this important work is being embraced by such a mainstream audience.   

Every session of Engaging Active Hope begins in gratitude.  This resonates for me, as every faith tradition offers practices of gratitude – for Life itself; for the gifts of air, water, and the good earth; and for fellow beings.  I’ve dubbed my favorite practice ‘Coming to Our Senses’ because that is, literally and figuratively, the most fundamental, and most hope-filled action we can take in facing the state of our planetary home. 

Here’s how it goes:

Call to mind something you’re grateful happened over the past day or two. It doesn’t have to be earth-shattering. Just something that, when you remember it, you think ‘I’m glad that happened.’ 

Got it? Now try to call to mind what the setting was like – the light, the colors, the sounds and smells … everything that fills out the memory to the fullest. Savor the memory as your senses revisit it.  

Group of People Making Toast
photo credit: fauxels

And now, silently or out loud, give thanks for what, or who, helped make that moment happen – for we are not self-made, nor isolated, beings.  We  are part of the interconnected web of all existence, and there is always something, seen and unseen, at work in our world. 

When we are fully present, bathed in all we are gifted by a single, precious moment, we come to our senses.  And when we are filled with gratitude, for even a moment, we are strengthened by the vast net of relationships that holds and sustains us. And then, we have the courage to see what we must see – that is, we Come to Our Senses – and are moved to act on behalf of this awesomely beautiful, broken world.

As you share this holiday with friends and family, remember to pause to fill your senses with the aromas of familiar foods and fall colors, especially in this time of great challenge, and boundless hope –

The Rev. Alison Cornish
Executive Director

P.S. We are considering offering an online version of Engaging Active Hope in 2020.  If you’re interested, please email us at info@paipl.org so we can let you know our plans!

October 2019 Newsletter-Part 3: Free Webinar on Tree Planting

Grab a friend or collaborator from your congregation and join us on Thursday, November 14th from 7:00-8:15 PM for a free webinar that will help you learn about siting and planting native trees on your land. Trees reduce mowing, act as windbreaks, provide shade and habitat, and provide a sense of time we simply don’t get from calendars or watches — and they are amazing carbon capture machines.  Brenda Sieglitz and BJ Small will join us from 10 Million Trees to share their wisdom, and let you in on some opportunities to apply for trees.  People and congregations in Lancaster, York, Adams, Franklin, and Cumberland counties, and areas in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed may have some additional opportunities. Registration is free but required.

We close with this excerpt or a prayer from Rabbi Arthur Waskow, and hope you will click through to read the whole prayer, carrying it with you as you move through your days.

We are the generation that stands between the fires:
Behind us the flame and smoke
that rose from Auschwitz and from Hiroshima;
From the burning forests of the Amazon,
From the hottest years of human history
that bring upon us
Melted ice fields, Flooded cities, Scorching droughts.
Before us the nightmare of a Flood of Fire,
The heat and smoke that could consume all Earth.
It is our task to make from fire not an all-consuming blaze
But the light in which we see each other fully.
All of us different, All of us bearing
One Spark.
— an excerpt from Between the Fires: A Kavvanah for Lighting Candles of Commitment, by Rabbi Arthur Waskow;
Read in full here.